An Attitude of Gratitude: There are a multitude of things I have been grateful for in my life, but I never imagined that being a recovering alcoholic would have made the list. This sentiment is also shared by fellow travelers on the same path. They experience a sense of appreciation for a difficult and sometimes very painful journey. Newcomers to this way of life are perplexed at this "attitude of gratitude." How can a person be grateful for being a recovering alcoholic or addict? It is understandable that one can be grateful for no longer needing to drink or use drugs, but it goes much deeper than that.
Being in long term recovery means that I haven’t found it necessary to use alcohol or drugs for a number of years – seventeen years. This is not something I achieved on my own. Not by a long shot. A concerned boss and a knowledgeable treatment center facility with a caring staff assisted me into the world of recovery where I developed a relationship with a Higher Power, whom I choose to call God. Other parts of my program include help from individuals in various 12-step programs, a good sponsor, supportive friends, family and husband. There are no quick fixes for this illness, but an attitude of gratitude definately speeds things up.
Alcoholism is a multifaceted, complex disease that not only affects the brain and body, but the spirit as well. It also has far reaching tentacles that spread out to spouses, children, siblings and friends. It pulls them into the chaos of a loved one’s active addiction and leaves a path of destruction. Many of my friends are family members and they are equally grateful for their own program that helps them to recover as well.
When I first entered into a “relationship” with alcohol at age 14, it was basically out of curiosity and peer acceptance. Most of my family members drank, some quite heavily, so it was not really frowned upon when I started. We had no knowledge of what alcoholism was or the problems it could create. It was never my intention to grow up to become an alcoholic, but something began to happen as the frequency increased and the relationship with alcohol became stronger. Preoccupation and obsession started to occur and a dependency eventually developed. Not only does alcohol change brain chemistry, it also changes thought process and function.
When working with clients I often talk to them about having an imaginary line in front of them, which I call a boundary. Before ever having started the business of drinking or using any kind of drug, we have thoughts and feelings about not crossing over that line. Some kids to begin to experiment and it is at that point we begin to justify and rationalize our decisions in order to make it okay. Each time we go further and do a little more or try something else we alter our values and beliefs about what we are doing. Getting in trouble with alcohol or becoming an alcoholic is not something individuals aspire to. It is during these times that the thinking becomes distorted and the inability to recognize what is happening begins to take place. This is called denial.
My attitude of gratitude for recovery is not only from the freedom of drinking or using, but the restoration of true self. In the beginning all I really hoped for was the ability to get through the day without the thought of a drink. Slowly over time and doing the footwork, the obsession left and other wonderful transformations began to take place.
Eventually the terrible anger and bitterness I once held so deeply started to dissolve and was replaced with a sense of understanding and forgiveness. Strongly held opinions, gave way to tolerance and acceptance of what other people thought and felt. A new found level of confidence surfaced and I was able to begin taking action towards several long desired goals that seemingly had vanished, namely my education. When I was 40 years old I walked across the stage and received my GED. With the support of my recovering friends and husband I then started college. That it was not too late for me helped cultivate my attitude of gratitude.
Very often individuals who are addicted to either alcohol or other substances believe that too much damage has been done or there are too many problems to overcome in order for them to straighten out their lives. This is simply not true. I have personally witnessed the ‘miracles’ that have taken places in the lives of hundreds of people who had all but given up hope only to discover the awesome power of recovery.
I am not only grateful for my own journey but the ability to assist and witness the restoration in the lives of those around me. One of the greatest joys is to see the sparkle return in the eye of someone who had the empty, vacant look of active addiction. I try to demonstrate my attitude of gratitude by the choices I make in my life today. Sharing the message of hope about recovery is one of them.
Angie Carter, CRADC, SAP is a certified reciprocal alcohol and drug counselor and DOT certified Substance Abuse Professional. She is in private practice at Carter Counseling & Consulting Services. Angie sees local clients in office and is also available for telephone coaching and/or consultation. Click here to contact Angie with appointment requests, questions, or feedback.